Tag Archives: dinner

TECHNIQUE + HABIT

Salmon is a forgiving fish, but not always. Through years of trial and error, I’ve found that a nice side of wild salmon (I pick out the pin bones with a pair of tweezers) will always stay tender and moist if it is simply brushed with a bit of olive oil, dusted with salt and pepper, and shoved under the broiler for about five minutes. Keeping a watchful eye and finishing with generous squeezes of lemon renders perfect fish, every time. (Okay, not every time). I find that roasting salmon, on the other hand, delivers a slice of anemic-looking fish with the texture of cat food… and I have yet to master the pan-sear. Live and die by the broil method.

Alongside the salmon was a simple green salad dressed in walnut oil, roasted new potatoes and chopped scallions, and sauteed green beans and carrots. (The key to perfect string beans is to parboil them in salted water for two minutes before flinging them into a piping hot frying pan, where they snap and sizzle for another couple of minutes and attain the perfect amount of crisp and char).

THE PAST IS PRESENT

My  old friend Meghan was in town for the weekend in preparation for her inspiring workshop at Le Pick Up, so the night she and Claudia were to arrive, I had a cozy, hot meal ready and waiting. We snacked on leftover charcuterie, cheeses, and homemade pickled carrots with hummus and breadsticks, and then moved onto dinner, starting with a salad of wild arugula laced with toasted hazelnuts, nectarines, and avocado, thinly dressed with walnut oil and sherry vinegar. We finished with a vibrant herb and mustard-rubbed pork loin served over beluga lentils (I love their rich, glossy black color) and new potatoes roasted in bacon grease. And finally, the fruit crumble seems to be every cook’s go-to uber-lazy dessert (it is for me anyway), and this luscious dish of halved golden plums roasted in blueberry honey and minced thyme was no exception. I often prefer my fruit desserts more tart than sweet, and this almost had an addictive sourness that I loved.

It’s so great to see old friends. A decade later, and very little has changed about our friendship, though we’ve grown so much in individual ways. So nice. I often wish I could gather all the people I love into one city, so I can see them whenever I want. Selfish, I know.

HOME STYLE

Beautiful Sasha made me dinner! Roasted red pepper + feta + crispy sweet potato frittata with salad greens + tomato + cucumber + herbs. “Easy peasy,” she called it. I love her style of cooking so much. Similar to me, yet super different, too. I always feel like I learn so much when I watch her cook. We brought a wedge of Red Meck — so salty and smooth.

LATEST ADDICTION

I rarely share recipes in this space (should I share more recipes in this space?), but I have to tell you guys about my new most favorite flavor ever: walnut oil vinaigrette. It’s stupendous, and only has three simple ingredients. We found it in a cookbook Gourmet put out decades ago, a volume dedicated to French cuisine. The recipe was simple, but felt magical: one head of red leaf lettuce is washed and torn into small pieces, then tossed with a few tablespoons of vinaigrette, and served with warm bread. Boom.

I usually make my own vinaigrette in a more haphazard way, and never use the allotted proportions because I prefer my dressing on the very acidic side. But I promise that this recipe, followed precisely, will yield the most luscious, silky, tangy, nutty vinaigrette imaginable. I’m obsessed with it.

Walnut oil vinaigrette. Whisk 1 tablespoon of good sherry vinegar with 1 teaspoon French Dijon mustard. Slowly whisk in 2 tablespoons of walnut oil, until emulsified and thick. Add salt and pepper to taste. Toss with half a head of red leaf lettuce, hand-torn into bite-sized pieces. I also added a few tablespoons of crumbled feta, and two roasted beets, sliced into medallions (so you can see the pretty spirals, of course). I broiled some day-old baguette dressed in olive oil and rubbed with garlic for quick croutons. Don’t you love how the beets made everything in the salad bright pink?

Crispy zucchini with tarragon. We bought these irresistible baby squash from the Birri boys at the Jean-Talon market. I sliced them lengthwise on the mandoline, and made a quick marinade with grapeseed oil, lemon, salt and pepper. We threw them on a hot grill and they did the most miraculous thing — they dehydrated, into crispy, tender chips. I tried imagining that I was eating french fries. It almost worked. We ate these with extra olive oil and fresh leaves of tarragon.

French puy lentils with caramelized onions + thyme. I sauteed one chopped white onion on low heat in butter until golden and sticky, then added a small bowl full of (washed, picked over) lentils. Add sprigs thyme, pinch red pepper flakes, and cover with chicken stock and simmer on low heat for 20 minutes, until tender. Drain and add 4 tablespoons finely minced parsley.

Shaved raw fennel salad. I sliced half a bulb of fennel on a mandoline and let marinate in a bit of red wine vinegar. Crunchy and perfect.

[One final self-promotional note. My lengthy interview with the remarkable percussionist and composer Jon Mueller is in the latest issue of Paris Transatlantic. I met him earlier this year in Montreal, and I was so taken with him. Read if you wish!]

PORTION CONTROL

Is this photo totally hilarious to anyone else?? Because I can’t stop laughing. The story is that my friend Kristen had already eaten dinner, but she came over to hang out anyway. I plated her a mini-dinner so she could still snack with us, and what resulted was the most preposterous-looking plate of food that I’ve ever had the pleasure of concocting.

One tiny boiled parsnip half with half a teaspoon of red wine and mushroom reduction; one chunk of tender venison stew; exactly one sliver of pan-fried mushroom; three baby haricot verts, poached in chicken broth; one skinny strip of sauteed guanciale. Dinner is served!

A FEW EASY PIECES

I don’t know if it’s the rising temperatures, the creeping hem lengths, or the sudden abundance of proper produce, but I’ve been cooking less and less. The typically powerful cravings — cheese, butter, cream, meat — haven’t disappeared, but they haunt me much less. (As if I could ever give up cheese). But some nights, all that takes to make me happy, apparently, is a rosy trout filet, a few fat spears of asparagus, one big handful of fresh spinach, and lemon draped over everything.

WHITE MAGIC

This is definitely one of the most beautiful plates of food I have seen in a long time. Delicate, romantic, and full of texture and sweet, aromatic notes.

Don’t worry, I didn’t make it. I arrived home very late — just having witnessed the all-too surreal spectacle of seeing my friends Dreamcatcher open for godspeed you! black emperor — and was welcomed with this lovely plate of food and a chilly glass of burgundy. A single, supple fillet of cod, poached in coconut milk and orange blossom water, was flaked into ethereal oblivion and garnished with black pepper. It made me want to eat more carefully, more delicately. I was just as taken with the feathery salad, too, which was simple, but perfect: thinly sliced fennel, blood orange suprêmes (a great tutorial on how to achieve this here), orange blossom water, lime, and a dab of honey. Proof that food can be magic.